Warning: the woods are dry

Fire near UBC Research Forest in Maple Ridge illustrates dangerous conditions.

A grass fire near the Malcolm Knapp UBC Research Forest on Saturday evening illustrated how dangerous the present fire conditions are.

The woods are so dry, Maple Ridge fire chief Dan Spence said a fire ban could be issued soon.

Higher than normal temperatures are predicted this summer across British Columbia because of a trend of warmer water in the Pacific Ocean that influences weather in the Pacific Northwest, according to Environment Canada.

May was one of the driest on record, and the trend has continued in June, increasing the fire hazard.

The fire Saturday was spotted near a B.C. Hydro right-of-way, in an area frequented by pedestrians. Members of the public found it, but it was soon too big for them to put out, and they dialed 911.

By the time firefighters got the call at 7 p.m. and arrived on scene, it had grown to about 500 square feet in size.

Spence would not speculate on the cause, but said any careless use of combustibles such as a cigarette butt could set off a blaze in the current conditions.

What’s more, he said, embers can cause secondary fires in these conditions.

“We are getting extreme fire behaviour when we have fires.”

“We’re approaching a point soon where we’ll be looking to ban outdoor fires,” said Spence. “People have to be very careful.”

The fire department will monitor the humidex, the Ministry of Forests’ fire danger ratings for the area, and the weather forecast.

Currently, the fire danger rating in southwestern B.C. is generally high, with pockets rated extreme.

The rating at the UBC Research Forest is high. There is rain in the forecast for Friday.

There are no campfire bans in B.C., but before lighting a campfire, you must have a shovel or at least eight litres of water nearby to extinguish the fire. It must be kept to 50 cm in size at the base and height.

Recreationalists must ensure that campfires are completely out and the ashes are cold to the touch before leaving the area for any length of time.

The Wildfire Management Branch also asks anyone riding an all-terrain vehicle or dirt bike to check the condition of the muffler, stay on dirt paths and avoid tall grasses and weeds. An approved spark arrester should be used on the exhaust system.